Gustav Mahler was one of the supremely gifted musicians of his generation. His contemporaries came to know him as a composer of startling originality whose greatest successes with the public never failed to provoke controversy among the critics. As a conductor, his relentless pursuit of perfection was sometimes viewed as tyrannical by the singers and musicians who came under his baton. Professor Henry-Louis de La Grange has devoted over thirty years of painstaking resarch to this study of Mahler's life and works. His biography, ultimately to be completed in four volumes, is drawn from a vast archive of documents, autographs, and pictures, assembled by La Grange at the Bibliotheque Musicale Gustav Mahler, Paris. This second volume covers the years 1897-1904, when the focus shifts to Vienna. It opens with Mahler's triumphant debut as director of the Vienna Court Opera, and follows with the revolution he wrought there in standards of performance and, with the Secession painter Alfred Roller, in scenic representation. An account is also given of Mahler's story and brief engagement as conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic Concerts, following Richter's resignation in 1989.
La Grange depicts the brilliant society of pre-war Vienna, then the centre of the intellectual and artistic world; the extraordinary range of artists among whom Mahler lived and worked included the composers Dvorak, Gustave Charpentier, Richard Strauss, Zemlinsky, and Schoenberg and his two disciples, Berg and Webern; the painters architects and decorators of the Secession with Klmit at their head; the writers Hauptmann, Dehmel, Hofmannsthal, and Schnitzler. There he also met Alma Schindler, 'the most beautiful woman in Vienna', and La Grange tells the story of their engagement and marriage in 1902 and the early years of their tempestuous relationship. As his fame spread throughout Europe, Mahler travelled with his music to Germany, Russia, Holland, Poland, and Belguim, meeting many other leading musicians of his day, including Pfitzner, Mengelberg, Diepenbrock, Oskar Fried, and many others. During this period Mahler wrote some of his best-loved works, including the fourth and Fifth Symphonies, and the three orchestral song-cyles and collections - the Wunderhorn -, Ruckert-, and Kindertotenlieder. For each of these works La Grange provides full notes and analytical descriptions.
Scrupulously researched, richly documented, this is a study worthy of the extraordinary artistic achievement of Gustav Mahler's Vienna years.
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(242mm x 167mm x 52mm)
Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
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US Kirkus Review »
Volume two of a contemporary monument in musical biography. More than twenty years ago de La Grange published the first volume (1973) of his life of composer/conductor Gustav Mahler. De La Grange proceeded through the first 40 years of Mahler's life, packed with creative work and emotional turmoil, on virtually a week-by-week (sometimes day-by-day) basis, claiming that the extraordinary length and detail of his book were necessitated by gaps in the written record occasioned by two world wars and the flux of national boundaries in Eastern Europe. The good news is that the second volume - which covers Mahler's legendary opera productions in Vienna, the anti-Semitism he battled against, his composition of the middle-period masterpieces, and his love affair with and marriage to Alma Schindler - is as good as, probably (by dint of the interest of its subject matter) better than, volume one. (The bad news is that this volume covers only the years between 1897 and 1904 in Vienna; volume three will complete the Vienna years, and volume four the New York years.) The approach is once again comprehensive. Thousands of letters, newspaper articles, and manuscript sources illuminate every corner of Mahler's life during the seven years in question. We are told the particulars of his favorite dessert and promised the recipe in an appendix to volume three. Nonetheless, such minutiae are not allowed to obscure the central fact that enabled Mahler to pursue his phenomenally challenging dual career as composer and conductor: his unshakable aesthetic. It is evident in every one of bis many judgments and projects, extending from the largest compositional design to his informed rebuke of a tenor at the Vienna opera who was trying to worm out of singing Die Fledermaus on the grounds that light opera was "beneath him." Against this artistic background, the complexity of Mahler's emotional life becomes easier to comprehend. A must-have for music libraries and all but the most superficial Mahler-ites. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Henry-Louis De La Grange
President of the Bibliotheque musicale Gustav Mahler in Paris, Henry-Louis de La Grange is Chevalier of the Order of the Legion d'honneur, and Officier of the Ordre du Merite.